Task Force on Shale Gas

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The UK Task Force on Shale Gas was an oil and gas industry-funded group set up in October 2014. In its own words, it aims to be 'a transparent, trusted, independent and impartial platform for public scrutiny, discussion and information about shale gas exploration and production in the UK'.

The task force was headed by Lord Chris Smith, a Labour peer who is a former shadow environment secretary and ex-chair of the UK Environment Agency. Its secretariat was managed by heavyweight lobbying firm Edelman.

The task force published four reports in 2015. These covered the local impacts of shale gas (released March), its impact on local environment and health (July), on climate change (September) and the economic impacts (December). No reports have been published since.


The Task Force on Shale Gas website states that 'it undertakes never to represent the views of funders, whether from industry or other stakeholder groups, to the government or the media'.

Responsibility for ensuring impartiality and independence from funders is vested in the Task Force Chair, Lord Chris Smith. Funders receive a report of Task Force activities and progress from the Chair every 6 months.

By October 2014 the Task Force had received £650,000 in funding from these companies:


1. 'Planning, Regulation and Local Engagement'

Published 25 March 2015. The task force criticised government regulation of the industry for being 'complex and unapproachable', and called for the creation of a new independent regulator to help boost 'public confidence'. [2]

The government responded that the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency already acted as independent regulators. Industry body UKOOG's CEO Ken Cronin welcomed the task force's recommendations and said the industry was already addressing public confidence issues.

2. 'Assessing the Impact of Shale Gas on the Local Environment and Health'

Published 15 July 2015, the task force's second report called for greater safety and transparency measures on fracking; 'full disclosure' of all chemicals; and independent monitoring of the fracking process. It argued 'local communities have a right to know what chemicals will be used in industrial activity near to where they live and be reassured that they are being used in safe quantities.' [3] Environmental campaigners criticised the report for failing to specify what levels of industrial pollution were manageable, and accepting risks to public health so long as the industry is properly monitored.[4]

3. 'Assessing the Impact of Shale Gas on Climate Change'

Published 16 September 2015'[5] The third report argued that fracking could be used as an alternative to coal, which produces more carbon emissions, while the UK transitions to renewable energy. The industry should not, however, receive public subsidy or tax breaks, and all tax revenues should be divested into developing low-carbon energy innovations. Green campaigners said in response that pursuing fracking would increase the UK's net fossil fuel use. The report also criticised the government for cutting subsidies to certain renewables, and called for more investment in carbon capture technologies.[6]

4. 'The Economic Impacts of a UK Shale Gas Industry'

Published 15 December 2015. The task force's final report, with a summary of its recommendations. The report calls for an expansion of exploratory drilling to better determine how much gas can be recovered. It says a shale gas industry could create jobs and energy security in the UK, but also have a negative effect on property prices. [7], and Final Conclusions and Recommendations'. [8]The report was criticised by Greenpeace for undermining the UK's efforts on climate change, days after the Paris Agreement conference.


Task force chair Chris Smith
  • Lord Chris Smith is the founding chair of the Task Force. He served the Environment Agency as chair from 2008 to 2014 and has been chair of the Advertising Standards Authority since 2006. He is a former shadow environment secretary.
  • Professor Ernest Rutter. Professor of Structural Geology at the University of Manchester School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences. 'His research includes studies of natural rock fracture and flow through field studies, plus laboratory-based experimental rock mechanics and petrophysics, aimed at understanding rock behaviour in nature and under engineering conditions. The latter has implications for the stability of excavations and boreholes employed in the exploitation of natural resources, and the flow of fluids though rocks'.
  • Nigel Brandon. Director of the Sustainable Gas Institute at Imperial College London. 'His research spans low carbon heat, carbon capture and storage, energy systems, energy storage, fuel cells, and hydrogen. Previous roles include being senior research fellow to the UK Research Council's Energy Programme, UK Focal Point with China in Energy and Climate Change, and research positions with both BP and Rolls-Royce'. He is a founder and former CEO and CTO of Ceres Power, an AIM-listed fuel cell company spun out of Imperial College. [9]
  • Emma Duncan, deputy editor of the Economist, writer for The Times, a non-executive director of Lancashire Holdings Limited, an insurance company, and a trustee of the George Orwell Trust. [9]

Former panel members

  • Baroness Patience Wheatcroft was a task force member when it launched but had resigned by the following month, ostensibly to concentrate on other activities. [10] Wheatcroft is a former non-executive director of Barclays plc, which had financial interests in shale gas including via its private equity arm's 97 per cent holding in UK firm Third Energy.

Advisory experts

  • Stephen Tindale is a climate and energy consultant and associate fellow at the Centre for European Reform. He also runs the website Climate Answers. Previous roles have included being head of communications and public affairs for RWE npower renewables, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK and chairman of the Greenpeace European Unit, adviser to environment minister Michael Meacher, founder of IPPR Environment Group and adviser to shadow environment secretary Chris Smith.
  • Professor Sarah O’Hara Pro-Vice Chancellor and Professor of Geography at the University of Nottingham, where she is currently co-director of the University of Nottingham Shale Gas Survey which explores public perceptions of shale gas extraction in the UK.
  • Michael Holgate is an independent energy consultant with experience working in fossil fuel and renewable energy sectors. He spent 15 years working as a drilling fluids consultant in the Orkney Islands. He is a former chair of the Orkney Renewable Energy Forum. He then worked in various advisory and management roles for Shell, BP, Agip, the Georgian government and the EU's INOGATE energy program. He has written on the development of shale gas energy.
  • Professor Alan Riley teaches at The City Law School, City University of London, and is a leading competition law scholar. He co-founded and chairs the Europe-wide Competition Law Scholars Forum and is co-editor of the Competition Law Review. He also specialises in energy law, and is researching market liberalisation and regulation in both Russian and European Union gas markets.
  • Dr Rob Ward holds a PhD in Hydrogeology and Environmental Radiochemistry awarded by the University of East Anglia. He has expertise in groundwater science and environmental regulation. He joined the British Geological Survey as Head of Groundwater Science in 2010, and was appointed Science Director in 2013. He was also a Senior Technical Advisor at the Environmental Agency and designed a national groundwater quality monitoring programme. He is an Honorary Professor at the University of Nottingham.

Former advisory experts

  • James Taylor is senior associate at international law firm Simmons & Simmons with a practice that deals in environment, planning and Health and safety. He has advised on the planning and regulatory aspects for many renewable energy projects, as well as on nuclear development and land contamination. He has written on shale gas regulation, and is the vice chair the United Kingdom Environmental Law Association.

Lobbying firms



Task Force on Shale Gas Secretariat and Registered Office:
3rd Floor, Southside, 105 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6QT
Registered company number 9171842


See infographics : Fracking Spads and Fracking lobbying firms


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Our Funding, Document updated 20 October 2014, Task Force on Shale Gas website, accessed 22 October 2014
  2. Task Force on Shale Gas First Interim Report, Task Force on Shale Gas, accessed 6 October 2016.
  3. Task Force on Shale Gas Second Interim Report, Task Force on Shale Gas, accessed 6 October 2016.
  4. Andy Rowell, UK Fracking Task Force calls for improved safety standards, Spinwatch, 16 July 2015, accessed 21 September 2016.
  5. Task Force on Shale Gas Third Report, Task Force on Shale Gas, accessed 6 October 2016.
  6. Fiona Harvey, Shale gas fracking should go ahead in UK, says taskforce, The Guardian, 16 September, accessed 19 September 2016
  7. Task Force on Shale Gas Final Report, Task Force on Shale Gas, accessed 6 October 2016.
  8. Task Force on Shale Gas Final Conclusions and Recommendations, Task Force on Shale Gas, accessed 6 October 2016.
  9. 9.0 9.1 About the Task Force, Task Force on Shale Gas
  10. Email to Melissa Jones, Spinwatch from the Secretariat of the Taskforce on Shale Gas, 11 March 2015.
  11. Register 1st September 2014 - 30th November 2014 APPC, accessed 29 January 2015